Page last updated at 16:53 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 17:53 UK

UK 'will push EU on CO2 targets'

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News

Coal power station
The EU currently has a more modest 20% target

The UK government will push the EU to move to a higher target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

It will urge the EU to cut emissions by 30% from 1990 levels by 2020, rather than the current 20% target, partly through more support for renewables.

A higher proportion of tax revenues will come from environmental taxes.

The Conservative-Lib Dem coalition also confirmed there would be a free vote on fox-hunting and that badger culling was back on the agenda for England.

The pledges are contained in the Programme for Government, unveiled on Thursday.

This fleshes out the much shorter agreement released by party leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg immediately after the confirmation of their coalition.

Recession proof

In 2009, EU leaders endorsed two targets for greenhouse gas emissions - 20%, rising to 30% in the event of a global deal on climate change.

That failed to materialise at December's Copenhagen summit.

But the recession has lowered emissions across the continent, making the higher target more easily achievable.

Environment groups have been lobbying governments to move to 30% immediately, to re-stake the EU's claim for global leadership on climate change - a call that the coalition has now endorsed.

"It's good news," said Bryony Worthington, founder and director of the campaign group Sandbag, who developed the policy of carbon budgets adopted by the Labour government.

"We needed the UK to be strong on this, and there was some doubt about whether the government would push for 30%, which is badly needed.

"If we stay at 20%. there doesn't appear to be any extra effort needed, and that doesn't sit well for the EU," she told BBC News.

The UK would seek to meet its share of the 30% target partly through the scaling up of renewable energy.

This would come partly through the introduction of feed-in tariffs, encouraging early adoption of technologies that at present cost more than fossil-fuel generation.

The government would also seek to set a "floor price" for carbon, and permit no new runways at Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick airports; and there is confirmation on the establishment of a bank to stimulate "green" investment.

"it's critical that the green investment bank is appropriately capitalised so that it can make a positive and lasting difference to our country," commented Ben Caldecott, head of UK and EU policy at specialist investment managers Climate Change Capital.

"The commitment to introduce a carbon price floor should reduce uncertainty for investors, but the level must be set at a price that will incentivise new investment."

Animal matters

Some reports had suggested that the coalition would not be able to implement its pledge of a free vote on fox hunting; but this is pledged anew.

On bovine tuberculosis (TB), the coalition will "introduce a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of bovine tuberculosis".

A swift initiation of culling in England had been floated during the election campaign by Jim Paice, who now holds the agriculture portfolio within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

At a briefing with reporters on Thursday, his boss, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, confirmed culling was on the agenda.

She noted that the bovine TB situation had changed since 2003 when the UK "Krebs trial", the largest study of badger-culling anywhere in the world, showed that culling in small areas in response to disease outbreaks increased the rate of cattle infection.

"TB had not then spread as far into the badger population as it has now, which makes things more difficult," she said.

Referring to the pilot study recently approved by the Welsh Assembly, she said: "I think we'll all learn from how they embark on it."

Jack Reedy, an advisor to the Badger Trust, called for more clarity on the governments' intentions and the science which it was using.

"The [Krebs] trial explicitly showed that culling in specific areas made the situation worse - that's why they stopped the 'reactive culling' arm of the trial early, because it was having the reverse effect," he told BBC News.

The government has given no details of the move it indicates towards adopting environmental taxes, which was a Conservative manifesto commitment.

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